Understanding Genetic Information as a Commons: From Bioprospecting to Personalized Medicine

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"In the Anglo-American legal tradition the concept of commons is linked to goods that are owned by a community and of which the same community can freely dispose. In this sense, the notion of commons identifies all the tangible and intangible resources that constitute a collective heritage of a specific community. The analysis of knowledge as a commons 'has its roots in the broad, interdisciplinary study of shared natural resources, such as water resources, forests, fisheries, and wildlife'. The exploitation of these collective resources must be regulated to prevent the overuse, depletion or extinction. This phenomenon is known as 'the tragedy of the commons' - a key metaphor coined by Garret Hardin - where individuals overuse resources because they are completely detached from the real cost . The 'tragedy of the commons' is also an allegory used to exemplify the potential struggle between the benefits of producers and consumers and the common or public good. However, contrary to the Hardins thesis, common resources can be sustainable and successfully managed by the people who use them rather than by private companies. Commonsmay in fact be vital resources for communities and nations as long as those subjects involved in their exploitation are able to define and share rules for their sustainability. So the tragedy can be avoided."



community, knowledge, tragedy of the commons, sustainability